This is a guest post written by Professor Joe from Nu-Topia.
After traveling cross-country twice, with two dogs and two people in a Rav4 packed full of gear, my girlfriend and I realized we needed to stop taking turns sleeping in the dog beds that were occupying our back seat. We researched sustainable trailers and found a super lightweight, small pop-up called the Cricket Trailer.
On the list of gear for outfitting the trailer we noticed an awesome package by Goal Zero, including two Escape 30 Solar Briefcases and a 350W battery. We were already big fans of Goal Zero, and figured this additional gear would be great to have on our journey. Little did we know our trip wouldn’t be nearly as successful without it. We had been camping before, but never amongst all the other RV owners. We quickly noticed many differences between us and the mega-buses that run generators, or simply leave the bus idling for hours in order to power their satellite TVs. I feel the first step in supplying our energy while living off the grid is to reduce what we want, and recognize what we need. For us, that means no microwaves and no flat screen TV. We keep our phones, iPod, and computer charged. We run an Engel refrigerator (which runs off of just 1W/hr) and use LED lights whenever possible (the Luna LED and the Light-A-Life have both been super handy when reading or cooking at night!). It’s easy to get back to nature when you capture your energy from the sun. Some campsites have sections where there are no generators allowed, and we take advantage of that solitude when we can. We notice there are often more birds, and even deer that will come right up to our camp. It’s amazing to truly feel like we are a part of nature, and not separate from it. We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, N.C. north through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Within the parks, campsites are dry camping only, which means they have no water or electric hookups. One day we realized the lights in the trailer were getting dim. It seemed that the trailer battery wasn’t taking a charge from our alternator while we were driving. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had blown a fuse in the charge line. Luckily, we had our Extreme 350 Power Pack, and we plugged our refrigerator into the battery for four more days. This saved all of our fresh organic food from spoiling, and we continued our trip along the ridge without having to stress. When we stopped to camp, we hooked up one 30W panel to the trailer battery, and the other to the power pack. With just a few hours of a trickle charge each day, we were able to power our adventure without a problem. Everywhere we go, people approach us and ask about our Escape 30 briefcases. We especially like them because of their durability and efficiency – not to mention, they’re very affordable. It’s nice to see a rising interest in alternative energy. Sometimes, even an owner of an RV-mansion will come up and whisper to us, “You’re on the right track; we need to do something like that.” What can we say? Less is more! One more tip for travelling that I’d like to share is this: You know when you’re driving and the sun is shining and just your left arm and left leg get really hot? Well, we like to hang our Nomad 3.5 Solar Panel in the window to block the sun AND capture its energy. It’s nice to have the extra batteries charged with the Guide 10 Plus Solar Pack – or charge up our Rock Out Speakers. I’m pretty sure we listened to the Fleet Foxes every single night around the campfire. It was just so fitting in those beautiful mountains. Our trip certainly wouldn’t be the same without our Goal Zero gear. We feel totally free knowing that we don’t depend on any other power sources, and consider all of our gear to be basic essentials. Cheers to many more beautiful and exciting adventures!